Alberta Politics
A screen-capture of a video posted to social media, author unknown, showing a tight-lipped Jason Kenney trying to escape a group of reporters last week.

‘Son of a rich farmer’ outrage fails to trump embarrassing questions for Jason Kenney about UCP candidate attitudes

Posted on November 05, 2018, 1:14 am
6 mins

When Alberta Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt was tossed out of the Legislature Wednesday morning for supposedly insulting an Opposition MLA, the kerfuffle that resulted obviously came as welcome relief to United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney.

In recent weeks, Mr. Kenney has often been on the run, sometimes almost literally, from questions by journalists about the views some of the people seeking UCP nominations, or those holding campaign jobs, not to mention the party leadership’s apparent toleration of many of them.

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There have been at least enough examples of offensive or peculiar attitudes about race, religion, gender and science among would-be UCP candidates since last spring to field a soccer team, or maybe even a rugby team!

So the opportunity to gin up a little faux outrage and some blood-curdling Internet memes about Mr. Schmidt’s sharp retort in the Legislature offered Mr. Kenney an opportunity to try to change the channel on his party’s apparent comfort with views many of us find inappropriate for many reasons.

MLA Devin Dreeshen, sans MAGA cap (Photo: Facebook).

In a heated exchange in the Legislature during debate on the NDP Government’s bill putting a lid on post-secondary tuition increases, Mr. Schmidt had dismissed a point made by Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. While doing so, the minister noted factually that Mr. Dreeshen is “the son of a rich farmer” and referred to his work in 2016 on the campaign to elect U.S. President Donald Trump. It’s quite clear, Mr. Schmidt told the assembly, that the young UCPer “has been wearing his Make America Great Again hat way too tight and it’s impacting his ability to share anything remotely resembling a fact in this assembly.”

Opposition Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Interestingly, what angered the UCP appears to have been the suggestion some Alberta farmers are pretty well heeled (including Mr. Dreeshen’s daddy, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Red Deer-Mountain View), not that he was famously photographed toasting Mr. Trump’s victory in New York on U.S. election night wearing a red MAGA cap, or that he may be economical with facts in his arguments.

Whether or not the call was the right one, Deputy Speaker Heather Sweet (a New Democrat) kicked Mr. Schmidt out of the chamber until he apologized, which he eventually did. The UCP troll farm had a field day creating orange memes pretending the NDP hates farmers.

I can tell you with authority the suggestion made by some that Mr. Schmidt said something just a little different from “son of a rich …” is not correct. Hansard got it right. This was no 21st Century Western reprise of fuddle-duddle.

As for Mr. Schmidt’s apology – which some NDP supporters complained about – that’s the way the Westminster Parliamentary system works. Mr. Schmidt didn’t really have any other option, whatever he may privately feel. Best just to get on with it.

By Wednesday afternoon, things were pretty much back to normal, with a silent Mr. Kenney – head down and tight-lipped – pursued through the halls of the Legislature by reporters asking questions about the latest and arguably most egregious UCP embarrassment, the case of a party campaign official linked to a website that sells white supremacist T-shirts and other racist junk.

Deputy Speaker Heather Sweet (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

After his entrepreneurial efforts became public thanks to reports in Ricochet Media and Press Progress, Adam Strashok was fired and kicked out of the party. But the reporters doubtless wondered how the Opposition Leader could have failed to note Mr. Strashok’s activities back when he was running Mr. Kenney’s leadership campaign call centre back in 2017.  They’ll have to wait for illumination.

Cell-phone videos of the chase posted on social media – like this one, and this one – bordered on high comedy.

The word in the marble hallways of the Legislature is that Mr. Kenney hasn’t talked to anyone from the Legislature Press Gallery for a couple of months now, although he does sit down with tame Postmedia columnists from time to dictate his talking points.

Each revelation of extreme or merely embarrassing behaviour or opinions by a nomination candidate prompts a promise that more will be done to keep extremists out of the party. Why does one feel this problem isn’t likely to end any time soon?

10 Comments to: ‘Son of a rich farmer’ outrage fails to trump embarrassing questions for Jason Kenney about UCP candidate attitudes

  1. tom in ontario

    November 5th, 2018

    The hot pursuit of Mr. Kenney fast forwarding up the stairs looks like door crasher day at Value Village.

    Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    November 5th, 2018

    Heard from a legislature near you…”and the bozo-eruptions keep on coming!”

    When Richard Starke, a sitting conservative MLA, calls the UCP out: “The new party is further to the right than either the Progressive Conservative or the Wildrose parties,” you have to believe that old adage that when someone shows you who they are, believe them — the first time.

    Nobody’s buying Kenney’s feigned regurgitated denials of his party’s deplorables — he’s in lock step with them by virtue of opening up his “big tent party” to ensure his election as UCP leader. He has deservedly saddled his party with a badge of shame. As Climenhaga rightfully acknowledged, this conservative train wreck isn’t going away anytime soon. If you’re the government or an opposition party — what’s not to like?

    Reply
  3. Bob Raynard

    November 5th, 2018

    Politically, it makes sense for Jason Kenney not to speak to reporters. He is leading in the polls, so he has more to lose than he stands to gain. He knows there are many areas (climate change, reproductive rights, budget details) that he could be really embarrassed by a real reporter, as opposed to a Postmedia fluffball.

    It does not bode well for what kind of premier he would be, though.

    Reply
  4. Andy M

    November 5th, 2018

    Apropos the rugby reference in the blog, maybe that’s why Kenny keeps “dropping the ball” and running away from media “scrums” these days. Thanks for “blowing the whistle” on more UCP hypocrisy. Shows how “out of touch” they are.

    Reply
    • Rocky

      November 5th, 2018

      At least no one’s going to accuse Kenney of getting it on with the hooker.

      Reply
      • November 12th, 2018

        Wow, that’s up there with the level of anti-oppression politics, decency, and wit that led Ashley Dryburgh to call the Honourable Mr. Kenney a closet case in the pages of Vue Weekly.

        Reply
  5. Farmer Brian

    November 6th, 2018

    I wasn’t surprised at the NDP members open disdain for Devin Dreeshan’s farming background. I think unless you have lived on a farm it is difficult to appreciate and understand what it takes to keep a farm successfully running for 5 generations. I am certainly thankfull to have grown up on a farm that began 1 year after Alberta became a province.

    I can also appreciate what it costs for a post secondary education and the need to make this affordable. It is no doubt a daunting task to receive your degree and be saddled with the task of paying back your accumulated student loans. Controlling the growth of this cost is I believe a positive step.

    As for Jason Kenney avoiding the press, not sure why. The staffer in question has been fired. It would appear the UCP needs a more comprehensive vetting process!

    One more thought on the rich farmer comment. If what NDP mla Robyn Luff says is correct and everything that NDP mla’s say in the legislature is scripted, then Marlin Schmidt’s comment came right from the top. I am not sure why the NDP dislike’s those of us who live in the country so much but I can assure them the feeling is mutual. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • anon

      November 6th, 2018

      “Devin Dreeshan’s farming background” ya don’t say … but wasn’t his daddy a math teacher in the public school system who dabbled in value-added agricultural things and used both to invest in his farming operation? Nothing wrong with that, but like putting a kid through school, it sure is easier to build up a farm with off-farm income. A Member of Parliament’s salary and pension could not hurt either.

      Reply
  6. David

    November 7th, 2018

    I never would have guessed that being called rich is now an insult, but I am not surprised Conservatives are so sensitive perhaps more so that the “snowflakes” they have so often derided.

    Coming from a rural background, I realize that farmers are often land rich, but cash poor so they don’t feel very rich. However, the value of land transferred from one generation to another is often in the millions of dollars and by most standards that would count as rich. Perhaps the social divides are not as obvious in rural areas as in the cities, but the poorer farmers tend to be those that have not inherited as much land, or as good quality land and the richer ones are the ones that inherited a lot of land or the best land.

    Some farmers also have considerable and steady off farm income that helps out – Mr. Dreeshan and his family seems to have figured out politics can do that nicely. Do they worry about crop prices – sure, but probably not as much as their neighbours who are not MP’s or MLA’s.

    I suppose the fake outrage here shows how out of touch the UCP elite is with average working people. Personally, I wouldn’t mind being called rich. It is certainly far better than the alternative of being called poor. Once again the UCP jumps to the defense of the better off.

    Reply

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